David Scott Cowper in Polar Bound is currently approaching the eastern entrance to Bellot Strait in the heart of the Northwest Passage. There’s nothing unusual in that in this day and age, you may think, but take a look at how he got there:
We speculated about this possibility earlier this year, and Polar Bound has now travelled in a westerly direction through Fury and Hecla Strait rather than taking the usual route via Lancaster Sound. According to the definitive reference on such matters by Bob Headland of the Scott Polar Research Institute she is the first vessel ever to do so using route West 7:
According to the Canadian Ice Service charts Polar Bound will only have needed to negotiate a short stretch of 1-3 tenths concentration sea ice to achieve her latest Northwest Passage “first”:
David Scott Cowper is already mentioned several times in the SPRI list of successful Northwest Passage transits:
Mabel E. Holland (12·8 m lifeboat), Britain, David Scott Cowper, West 6, Single-handed voyage, vessel wintered at Fort Ross twice, and at Inuvik
Polar Bound (14·6 m motorboat), Britain, David Scott Cowper, East 5, Single-handed voyage, wintered in Cambridge Bay, assisted by CCGS Louis S. St Laurent in Prince Regent Inlet
Polar Bound (14·6 m motorboat), Britain, David Scott Cowper, West 5, Single-handed voyage
PolarBound (14·6 m motorboat), Britain, David Scott Cowper, East 3
PolarBound (14·6 m motorboat), Britain, David Scott Cowper, West 1
PolarBound (14·6 m motorboat), Britain, David Scott Cowper, East 5, Traversed Pond Inlet
It looks as though there will be another addition real soon now, but for the moment note in particular the entry for 2012. Route 1 is the northernmost of the potential paths through the Northwest Passage and involves negotiating the usually ice bound McClure Strait. Polar Bound was the first ever small vessel to do so! At the moment it looks like that will be a difficult feat to repeat this year. Whilst many of the assorted channels through the Northwest Passage melted out early this year the recent recurring cyclones have ensured that McClure Strait remains firmly blocked:
Polar Bound has just emerged from the western end of Bellot Strait:
The $64,000 question is where is she headed next?
The short term answer is a sheltered spot between Hobday Island and Prince of Wales Island:
Northabout is currently travelling in the opposite direction. Perhaps they’ll soon meet there?
It seems they did!
— PolarOceanChallenge (@PolarOceanChall) September 8, 2016
David Scott Cowper is currently approaching Barrow in Polar Bound, but the weather forecast is more than a bit blustery. According to today’s National Weather Service forecast, here’s what he should expect:
POINT FRANKLIN TO CAPE HALKETT-
405 AM AKDT SAT SEP 17 2016
…SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM LATE THIS MORNING THROUGH
EARLY SUNDAY MORNING…
SW WINDS 25 KT. SEAS BUILDING TO 5 FT. SNOW AND RAIN.
W WINDS 30 KT. SEAS 9 FT. FREEZING SPRAY.
W WINDS 30 KT. SEAS 10 FT. FREEZING SPRAY.
W WINDS 30 KT. SEAS 11 FT.
Let’s hope Polar Bound finds some shelter before the worst of it arrives on Sunday night.
It seems Polar Bound didn’t find shelter, and instead reversed course during the worst of the storm:
However, as you can see, she has now passed Point Barrow and is Heading south towards the Arctic Circle via the Bering Strait:
Can you spot the yellow needle in the icy haystack? There is currently much “debate” in the cryodeinialosphere to the effect that Northabout nearly became “trapped by ice”, so let’s also take a quick look at the National Weather Service ice chart covering Barrow shall we?
It seems Polar Bound somehow managed to wend her way through 7-8/10 concentration sea ice, does it not?
Polar Bound has now crossed the Arctic Circle and is heading south through the Bering Strait:
David Scott Cowper has therefore now “officially” completed his record breaking route West 7 transit of the Northwest Passage.
Very well done sir, and bon voyage!